Welcome to South Carolina and the mean season of GOP politics

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Good morning Austin:

After the celebrated niceness of Iowa, and the vaunted civic virtues of New Hampshire, the Republican presidential nominating contest moves to South Carolina, which is known for a mean politics that brings the worst out in candidates.

Really? How can that be? Probably a bum rap. People are people.

I just got in last night, so it’s too soon for me to tell.

But it is true that when I turned on my TV at the hotel in Greenville, I immediately learned that Ted Cruz is political pals with Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama and Edward Snowden, and weak – weak –  on immigration and national security.

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I’m not in Texas any more.

OK. Wait a minute. Who is behind this blaspheming of Cruz?

From Alex Isenstadt at Politico.

American Future Fund, a conservative group that spent heavily against Cruz in Iowa, will begin airing a TV commercial in South Carolina that labels Cruz as “weak” on national security — a damaging label in military-heavy South Carolina. The spot ties Cruz to Bernie Sanders, the liberal insurgent who’s gaining momentum in the Democratic primary, and President Barack Obama. “Ted Cruz talks tough on national security. But look at his record. Cruz voted with Bernie Sanders against defense spending,” the ad says. “Cruz sided with Obama to weaken our ability to track terrorists.”

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Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier slammed the claims, saying they were untrue and would not sway voters.

“The ad is appropriately titled “Weak” because none of the claims made stand up to reason or fact,” she said in an email. “This is from the same group that failed to stop us in Iowa and will run into the same roadblock in South Carolina. As they should have already learned, misconstruing Cruz’s record will not work, because voters don’t believe it, they know that Ted has consistently led on efforts to strengthen our national security, fight radical Islamic terrorism, and oppose amnesty.”

The American Future Fund.

Who dat?

Well, here is some of their previous handiwork, including this anti-Kasich ad.

The American Future Fund is the brainchild of Nick Ryan.

Here’s Ryan on Ryan.

Nick Ryan has founded and leads a variety of diversified business and political interests in Iowa and across the nation. An active investor and entrepreneur, Ryan has founded and owns an interest in a variety of agriculture, energy and renewable resources, financial services, information technology, and marketing endeavors.

In 2007, Ryan founded the American Future Fund (AFF), a 501(c)4 public interest organization focused on advocating free market principles. Under Mr. Ryan’s leadership, AFF has emerged as the go-to national leader in advocating for limited government and free market solutions to the problems facing the United States. Under Ryan’s leadership, AFF has grown to be one of the largest conservative organizations in the country.

In addition to his work with AFF, Mr. Ryan is President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, IA. Mr. Ryan also serves as founder and President of Concordia Group LLC, a public affairs firm headquartered in West Des Moines, IA focusing on project management, communications strategy, and grassroots advocacy for corporate, non-profit and political clientele.

In 2015, Mr. Ryan was named President of Pursuing America’s Greatness, a super political action committee supporting Governor Mike Huckabee.  Pursuing America’s Greatness is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In 2011, Mr. Ryan founded the Red, White & Blue Fund, former Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) super political action committee.

From Cady Zuvich at Al Jazeera:

A conservative dark money group took its first shot in the presidential TV ad wars with a six-figure ad buy attacking ascendant Republican candidate Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

The Iowa-based American Future Fund is a conservative nonprofit linked to the billionaire brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, which since 2010 has inundated federal and state races with tens of millions of dollars.

But it seems that Kasich, while a Republican, is not right-leaning enough for the group.

“John Kasich — not a conservative. Not even a moderate. An Obama Republican,” the ad’s narrator says. The ad zeroes in on Kasich’s purported support of Common Core educational standards, Medicaid expansion and tax increases.

Airing in New Hampshire markets, the ad flurry follows Kasich’s recent surge in the Granite State. Kasich nabbed endorsements from two newspapers there and is making a strong showing in New Hampshire polls. But if American Future Fund has any say, he will flounder in the state’s primary, the first in the nation, on Feb. 9.

OK. I get going after Kasich from the People’s Republic of Ohio, awash in Medicaid funding and profligate compassion, but Texas Ted Cruz?

The Koch brothers don’t like Cruz? I’m thoroughly confused.

From Alan Rappeport at the New York Times last month.

The billionaire Koch brothers have long been power brokers within the Republican Party, using their wealth to steer candidates and their policies. But this election season is turning out to be a different story, with a billionaire celebrity and a firebrand senator from Texas taking the political debate in directions that Charles G. Koch finds worrisome.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Mr. Koch bemoaned the state of the field of Republican candidates seeking the nomination and suggested that big money was losing its influence in politics these days. His concern over the policies of Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was especially clear.

“It is hard for me to get a high level of enthusiasm because the things I’m passionate about, and I think this country urgently needs, aren’t being addressed,” said Mr. Koch, 80, the chairman of Koch Industries.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s plan to bar foreign Muslims from entering the United States, Mr. Koch said that such a policy was antithetical to what America represents.

“Well, then you destroy our free society,” Mr. Koch said. “Who is it that said, ‘If you want to defend your liberty, the first thing you’ve got to do is defend the liberty of people you like the least?’”

Mr. Koch also said that Mr. Cruz’s plan to “carpet bomb” the Islamic State militants would be fruitless, wondering if the next step would be to go country to country bombing Muslims.

“I’ve studied revolutionaries a lot,” Mr. Koch said. “Mao said that the people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims. Not that we don’t need to defend ourselves and have better intelligence and all that, but how do we create an unfriendly sea for the terrorists in the Muslim communities? We haven’t done a good job of that.”

Last year, the Koch brothers signaled that their network of political nonprofits, “super PACs” and like-minded donors would spend almost $900 million advancing conservative candidates and policies through the 2016 election.

Even before carpet bombing, there was this from Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media in November.

Before Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) electrified conservatives with his denunciation of liberal media bias at the GOP presidential debate last week, he took a little-noticed position on a major crime bill before the Senate that set him apart from the politically powerful Koch brothers. Taking the side of law-and-order conservatives on an issue that could emerge as a major focus of the 2016 presidential campaign, Cruz came out against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) on the grounds that the legislation, which will retroactively reduce the sentences of thousands of federal prison inmates, could lead to the release of violent criminals, some convicted of using weapons while engaged in other crimes. He said the Senate bill would release “illegal aliens with criminal convictions” when a “major crime wave” is already sweeping the nation.

In an extraordinary development, the Koch brothers decided to publicly go after Cruz. Echoing the views of the libertarian billionaires, whose network of conservative advocacy groups was planning to spend $889 million on the 2016 campaign, Mark Holden, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Koch Industries, Inc., issued a statement denouncing the Texas senator by name. He said, “We are disappointed that some members, including Senator Cruz, who have supported the need for reform and been strong supporters of the Bill of Rights, did not support this bill.”

While Cruz had indicated support back in February for a Senate bill on “sentencing reform,” he voted against the latest version because he said it would lead to more criminals being released from prison and committing crimes against law-abiding citizens and police.

OK. So let me get this straight. Ted Cruz is too right-wing on carpet bombing and criminal justice for the libertarian Koch brothers, and they are apparently helping fund an anti-Cruz ad campaign in South Carolina that portrays Cruz as an Obama-Sanders liberal.

Meanwhile, Cruz told Megyn Kelly on Fox yesterday that Trump won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a good state for liberal Republicans. And, of course, Donald Trump is a liberal.

Well, I don’t know. Not every Republican winner in New Hampshire is a super-liberal.

1980 – Ronald Reagan* (49.6%) George H.W. Bush (22.7%) Howard H. Baker (12.1%) John B. Anderson (9.8%) Philip M. Crane (1.8%) John B. Connally (1.5%)

1996 – Pat Buchanan (27.2%) Bob Dole* (26.2%) Lamar Alexander (22.6) Steve Forbes (12.2%) Richard Lugar (5.2%) Alan Keyes (2.7%) Morry Taylor (1.4%)

2008 – John McCain* (37.1%) Mitt Romney (31.6%) Mike Huckabee (11.2%) Rudolph W. Giuliani (8.6%) Ron Paul (7.7%) Fred D. Thompson (1.2%) Duncan Hunter (0.5%) Alan Keyes (0.1%)

From The Blaze, on Cruz campaigning in New Hampshire:

Cruz cast himself as a long-shot conservative candidate in the state, much like former President Ronald Reagan was when he won the New Hampshire primary.

“Thirty-six years ago, the state of New Hampshire faced a similar election,” Cruz said. “An election where the stakes were every bit as great as they are today. And thirty-six years ago, the Granite State saw the former governor of California coming to it with all of the media saying, ‘This guy can’t win,’ with all of the media saying, ‘This guy is too far to the right, he’s too conservative.’ And besides, the media told New Hampshire, he’s 15-20 points behind in the polls.

“And yet, the men and women of this state took a look at the candidates, examined their records, and said ‘we’re tired of candidates who haven’t walked the walk. We’re tired of campaign conservatives who can give a good talk, but don’t stand when it matters.”

Cruz said that the men and women of New Hampshire handed Reagan “a stunning upset victory” that “gave the United States and the world Ronald Wilson Reagan.”

“We’re in a similar moment,” Cruz said.

Only, it was Trump triumphant on Tuesday.

Cruz celebrated his third-place showing in New Hampshire as a great victory, but looking back at 2008, Cruz’s third-place, 12 percent this year is not very different from Huckabee’s third-place, 11.2 percent back then, and Huckabee’s showing is retrospectively viewed as a disaster that proved he wouldn’t go the distance.

That said, i think it is true that Cruz came out of New Hampshire pretty well-positioned.

From Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller.

So the really interesting point is that I think the big winner of the night is Ted Cruz . The primaries are about to head South, which is Cruz country. Unlike other Evangelical candidates who win Iowa but can’t parlay that into more, Cruz’s respectable finish in New Hampshire demonstrates that he’s not simply a regional candidate.

If you think about what happened on Tuesday night, Cruz swapped a serious rival (Rubio) for a guy who likely is a one-hit wonder (Kasich). That’s a trade he will take every day and twice on Sundays. Because the “establishment” lane is now muddled and muddy (even Jeb Bush is looking better these days!), there is a real danger that mainstream conservative voters could begin to coalesce around Cruz as the best, last hope to stop Donald Trump.

Here is the personal email Cruz sent yesterday to my friend Bruce.

Ted Cruz Personal Email – May Include Privileged Communication

Bruce,

Do you have a few minutes to read my email?

I hope you will stop what you are doing for just a moment and let me explain…

The results of the first two states are in, and it’s clear that we are down to a two person race — me vs. Donald Trump!

You also know — the winner will take on Hillary Clinton.

Bruce, let me be blunt. I can beat Hillary Clinton. Donald can’t.

That is why I am asking you — one of my closest and most loyal supporters — will you redouble your support for me today?

I need you now more than ever, and let me tell you why.

When I first announced my campaign, Heidi and I committed that we would run an issues oriented, positive campaign. Unfortunately, my friend, Donald Trump, didn’t make that same commitment.

While Donald continues with personal attacks — and vulgar profanities — I do not intend to respond, but that won’t stop Donald.

He is so rattled by my surge in the polls, our victory in Iowa, and our strong finish in New Hampshire that he has decided to continue his scorched earth campaign in an attempt to burn down everyone and everything in his path.

I can’t fault Donald for this…it’s the only way he can distract voters from his record:

Support for Hillary-style healthcare;

Support for partial birth abortion;

Support for bank bailouts;

Support for Obama stimulus; and

Enthusiastic embrace of eminent domain.

Bruce, will you help me set the record straight?

Without your help, he might get away with it…and if he does, say hello to President Hillary Clinton.

That’s why I need your immediate help.

As I write this email to you, I’m being briefed that our Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns have taken a significant toll on my campaign budget. As of today, I’m still $490,700 short of my mid-month budget for February.

With South Carolina voting next in just 10 days — I can’t afford to come up short. That’s why I’m turning to you again. Will you help me make up the difference by using one of the secure links below?

You can make a HUGE impact on this campaign and help me win this nomination with an IMMEDIATE contribution — no matter how small.

There is great strength in numbers.

With your personal contribution, you’ll also be sending a big message to Donald Trump that tearing others down and misleading voters is not the best way to unite conservatives and make America great again.

Bruce, I’ll set the record straight on Donald’s false attacks, secure the Republican nomination, AND DEFEAT HILLARY, but I can only get there with your continued help.

This is our time!

Together, we will reignite liberty in America.

For liberty,

Ted Cruz

Meanwhile, Bruce also heard from Marco Rubio, who also wanted money, but not before apologizing for letting Bruce down.

Good grief: I blew it. I won’t blow it again. Please give.

Bruce,

On Saturday night at the debate, I dropped the ball. I want you to know that will never happen again.

We are heading to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond. Make no mistake: We are going to win this nomination.

Throughout my life, I’ve known tough times. In New Hampshire last night, I told the story of how when I was young, at one point, my father lost his job as an apartment manager and my family had to move out of our Miami apartment, all in the same week. He had to move clear across the country to Las Vegas to look for work, and the job he finally found, after 20 years as a bartender who’d finally moved his way up a bit, had him starting from scratch again as a busboy.

I know how to come from behind. We’re going to show America what leadership and a vision for a New American Century look like.

Bruce, if you heard what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton said last night, you know the stakes: If one of them wins this fall, they will keep up President Obama’s efforts to change our country beyond recognition.

I shudder to think what another eight years of President Obama’s liberal leadership and lawless actions will look like. Bruce, this is our chance to ensure that doesn’t happen.

I am the only conservative candidate who can unite our party and beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders this fall.

If you want a Republican White House next year instead, with the ideas we need to restore America in the 21st Century, then I need your support.

Again, this is just the beginning. I hope I’ll have your support as we continue this journey.

Thanks,

Marco Rubio
Republican Candidate for President

On CNN last night, Rudy Giuliani said Ted Cruz was too much the conservative purist and not the right choice for president.

He knew Ronald Reagan, Giuliani said, and Ted Cruz is no Ronald Reagan.

From Tom Edsall in the New York Times.

“Cruz is a leader of the ‘purity caucus’ that is obstinate, grandstanding and very un-Reagan like and very frustrating for his Senate colleagues,” Ed Rogers, chairman of the BGR Group, one of the major lobbying firms, wrote to me in an email. John Feehery, president of Quinn Gillespie Communications, and a former top Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, was more outspoken:

Cruz is an army of one, alienating anybody who is in his path. He advocates losing strategies purely to further his own career at the expense of the party.

The second basis for Republican animosity toward Cruz is the widespread conviction that Cruz would not only lose in a landslide, but that he would bring the Republican Senate majority and many House Republicans down with him.

But, writes Edsall, no one questions Cruz’s conservative credentials.

There is an unusual degree of consensus on the intensity of Cruz’s conservatism among experts in campaigns, elections and partisan polarization.

I asked Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, just how conservative Cruz is. Abramowitz replied:

Cruz’s positions are on the far right of the Republican Party today, which would certainly place him far to the right of past conservative leaders like Reagan or Gingrich during his years as Speaker. In fact, his voting record is among the 2 or 3 most consistently conservative in the Senate. He is very conservative on every issue dimension: economic policy, social policy and national security/foreign policy. He is running on that record — emphasizing his purity compared with his rivals.

Cruz fits the conservative bill of particulars on every count. Edward Carmines, a political scientist at Indiana University, affirmed Abramowitz’s judgment:

What Cruz represents is the embodiment of the hard right; he has extremely conservative positions not just on economic and social welfare issues like social security, health care, affirmative action programs for women and minorities, and taxes but also on social and cultural issues such as gun control, prayer in schools, abortion, and gay marriage.

Cruz’s extremism has been statistically presented by Keith Poole, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. Poole has produced a chart, based on voting records, of the ideological positions of presidential candidates who have served in the House or Senate. The chart shows Cruz’s voting record as substantially more conservative than that of Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham or Bob Dole.

And:

During his three years in Washington, Cruz has earned an unprecedented level of animosity from elites on both the left and right. What is really stunning to a longtime observer of Washington is the number of reputable people who have brutally criticized Cruz on the record. The New Republic recently published an extraordinary collection of anti-Cruz quotes that runs from the left through the center to the right. His colleagues are on record as hating him — hate may be too mild a description. First and foremost, he has angered virtually everyone he works with, especially his fellow Republican senators.

So presumably, Cruz will weather the South Carolina primary with his anti-Washington, conservative bona fides intact.

But then there was Kellyanne Conway, the Republican pollster and consultant who leads one of Cruz’s super PACs, on CNN last night, saying that Trump, unlike Cruz, was too much the Washington outsider.

“How can your first job in Washington be commander-in-chief?” Conway asked.

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